★★½

While mildly enjoyable as a standalone sci-fi thriller, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ can’t help but feel like a huge step-down from previous entries of the franchise.

The film follows a group of astronauts aboard a space station who, after using a particle accelerator to create energy for Earth, must find a way back home when they accidentally end up in an alternate reality, where mysterious and haunting things begin to happen.

On the outside, Paramount and Netflix’s release strategy for this film seemed genius – nobody was even aware of the film’s title or its existence, and for those that were, we all thought it was coming out in theaters in April, as previously stated. Imagine everyone’s surprise when, during the Super Bowl last Sunday, a TV spot aired, marketing the film for the first time, revealing the title, and that it was actually coming out right after the game on Netflix.

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And yes, while revolutionary, I can’t help but think Paramount dumped the movie on Netflix to avoid the inevitable bad reviews and buzz it would most certainly generate with a theatrical release because, frankly, it’s not great. The movie really is the prime definition of a mixed bag: when it works, it really does, but when it doesn’t, it borders on terrible.

The film is very rushed from the beginning, with the script choosing not to develop a single character other than Ava, the main character, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. For a film starring Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo, and Elizabeth Debicki just to name a few, it’s almost criminal we actually don’t have any time to actually meet their characters and care for them. It’s even worse when you think about its predecessor, ’10 Cloverfield Lane’, which had three extremely developed and rich characters in a far superior movie than this one.

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At first, the main mystery of the film proves to be very engrossing and interesting. It opens the door to infinite possibilities story-wise. Unfortunately, the movie chooses to go with unexplained events just for the sake of it. An example of this, is a painfully unfunny scene with Chris O’Dowd‘s character that feels very forced and silly, and has no relation to the tone of the rest of the film.

Another big flaw for me, was the storyline taking place on Earth with Ava’s husband. While the actor is likeable and does a fine job, the film cutting to Earth completely undermines the whole mystery of the film, and is even more ridiculous when you realize it doesn’t affect the plot in any way. It actually just ends up confusing it even more.

However, it’s worth mentioning that ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ does have a lot of qualities despite all of the above. Julius Onah proves to be a very capable director, who was just given a horrible script to deal with. Both the cinematography and score are excellent and very cinematic. The performances by all of the actors are great, even if, as I mentioned before, the characters are not given any sort of development. Once the film reaches its climax, the pace does get considerably better and it’s more entertaining, but it’s too bad it took far too long to get there.

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‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is being marketed as the film that explains how the Cloverfield universe connects, but in the end, it just ends up making it much more complicated than it needed to be. It sets up unnecessary questions that I don’t even think JJ Abrams and company know the answer to. It would really help if they grounded this universe in the next installments, and produce films more in line with the previous entries than with this one.

In the end, it can be enjoyed as a popcorn sci-fi thriller when you have nothing else to watch, but if you’re a Cloverfield fan, prepare to be disappointed.

‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is now available on Netflix.

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